Study Guide

Adele Ratignolle in The Awakening

By Kate Chopin

Adele Ratignolle

Perfect 1950's—Er, Make That 1890's—Housewife

Adele is Edna’s close friend and almost complete opposite. As the supreme example of a "mother-woman," Adele represents the ideal that Edna is supposed to imitate. Adele spends all her time caring for her family and maintaining a state of marital bliss with her husband. She keeps up with only one hobby, music, because it makes her home brighter and more attractive.

In other words, Adele has completely subsumed her identity in favor of her fam. And don't take our word for it—take Adele's:

Edna had once told Madame Ratignolle that she would never sacrifice herself for her children, or for any one. Then had followed a rather heated argument; the two women did not appear to understand each other or to be talking the same language. Edna tried to appease her friend, to explain.

"I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself. I can't make it more clear; it's only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me."

"I don't know what you would call the essential, or what you mean by the unessential," said Madame Ratignolle, cheerfully; "but a woman who would give her life for her children could do no more than that--your Bible tells you so. I'm sure I couldn't do more than that." (16.10-12)

At the same time, however, it is Adele’s liberal ways that help unleash the Inner Edna. When Adele clasps Edna’s hand in Chapter Seven, for instance, Edna is at first taken aback but her reserve soon melts and she opens up to Adele, confiding past infatuations and the reasons for her marriage. Edna takes this newfound ability and runs with it – all the way to a new house, a new man, and a new outlook on life. While Adele disapproves, remember that her character started this chain reaction in Edna’s life.